Here’s Why You Might Want to Try This Controversial Layout Move

published Apr 10, 2022
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Living room with furniture placed on the diagonal

Common design wisdom suggests that “floating” furniture away from walls helps a room feel airier and more stylized. Rather than pushing your couch, sideboard, and desk snug against the wall, floating a piece away from the partition can make the difference between your room appearing amateur or professionally designed. What about floating your furniture at an angle, though? 

It might sound like a controversial idea, but some furniture looks great skewed at an angle. However, not all furniture fits the bill. We called on seasoned design pros to find out when and how to use a diagonally-floating piece of furniture. Here’s their advice for this unconventional furniture arrangement.

For Kevin Francis O’Gara of Kevin Francis Design in Atlanta, it’s all about introducing something other than a right angle in an already cleain-lined room. “Placing furniture on a diagonal is a great way to break up the angularity of a room and add visual interest. In rooms like offices, where you may not have many pieces of furniture to play with, adding a diagonal gives you a unique option for arranging the room,” he says. “In a living room, a diagonal piece can also make the space feel cozier and more intimate.” 

O’Gara recommends using furniture with visible legs for a diagonal orientation to help the piece from feeling like a block in the room. “For instance, in a past project, I’ve arranged a chaise like this, which was visually lighter than a full sofa,” he says. Likewise, pieces with a smaller footprint look more natural askew than something large with lots of visual weight, like a wooden bookcase. 

Andi Morse, the founder and principal designer of Morse Design based in Atlanta, seconds O’Gara’s caution against floating anything that has a heavy base on an angle. “An airy desk is a great option to put on an angle. Another piece would be a chair that has an open bottom. If the piece is too heavy, it will have the opposite effect and look clunky and out of place,” Morse says.

Credit: Jacqueline Marque

Morse recommends utilizing this layout trick in petite rooms. “In smaller spaces, placing all the furniture in line with the walls can make the room feel smaller and more cramped. Placing a piece of furniture on an angle will not only allow more space for other pieces, but will allow the room to feel larger,” she says. 

Floating furniture on the diagonal axis is also a great way to enhance your guests’ experience of a space. “A typical living room plan may have two chairs facing the television with their back to the kitchen. This furniture scheme isolates guests to just the television. By angling the chairs slightly towards each other, suddenly they are able to communicate with one another, those in the space behind them, and enjoy views into other rooms or out windows,” says Emma Kemper, principal designer at Emma Beryl Interiors in New York City. In a recent project, Kemper angled a chair in a reading nook out into the living room. “The homeowners are now able to use this sweet corner while also interacting with those in another room or enjoying the afternoon sun through the windows.”

Credit: Monica Roy

If you’re nervous to try this technique, dip your toe in by using a rounded piece of furniture. “Corners are typically an afterthought that gets stuck with a random plant or unnecessary floor lamp. Instead, bring them into the conversational setting by placing a rounded swivel chair and ottoman in the corner,” suggests New York interior designer Larisa Barton, founder of Soeur Interiors

Take a look at your own home: Is there a room where every piece of furniture is hugging the walls? Try rearranging things so that a piece floats on a diagonal. It might be just the tiny tweak your room has been waiting for.